I keep wanting to write a post, and nothing much comes out. I abandon it before it’s even halfway a thought. I think it’s partly too much effort. I am just so profoundly tired. I think I am more and more relaxed and what comes out of that is I am aware I am just so tired.
There’s this sort of confluence of thoughts in my head that is leading somewhere else—as a group, they point in the same direction.
I mentioned my houseguests a few weeks back. It really struck me that they do not share. They are not selfish. It is just their way. Everyone is kind of in their own separate bubble. But they assumed I would not eat dinner with them although they stayed overnight in my house. In the morning, they wanted to “borrow” my bowls to eat breakfast. All separate, separate, separate like they are navigating through life in their own lifeboats. Bizarre. Two girls had an apple. They ate them. Here, if you have an apple and there are 6 people, you get a knife and cut six pieces. That seems to me the way to do things. It seems normal. If there is something I have only one of, I wait until I am alone to eat it. My friends will break candy in half to share if I wasn’t there when the sharing happened. The way this seems normal to me I don’t think is an adjustment to Country X. It fits how I am already. I think a collective culture was “home” for me.
The converse of this, though, is that assuming people will share with you is intrusive. It results in behaviour that, if you are in an individualistic culture, is going to read as rude and presumptuous. It means you might ask for something in a way that doesn’t imply the person can refuse or you might take something that is not yours without asking.
You might seem disrespectful.
I am imagining being four or five and trying to navigate my homelife when a different culture seemed comfortable and intimate and safe. I might be afraid of making mistakes and not really understand why I would be making them. I might not understand why acceptable behaviour might be so radically different in those two settings. I might find people think I am rude and get mad at me for reasons I can’t quite grasp. I might eventually conclude that intimate relationships are where you can be less focused on boundaries and maintaining individuality and strangers expect autonomy. I might feel like I am always around strangers and can never let down my guard and be close. I might feel terribly lonely because I have to live full time with rules that are rules for how to behave with strangers.
That’s one set of thoughts. Just the loneliness of it. I think about life in the States and that is how it feels. Like living in ice. Just terribly lonely.
Then I start thinking how it might feel to have the reasons I would feel that way be about positioning myself as a part of a group. That group is not thought well of—this was the 70s and 80s. Perestroika was in early stages. We were not necessarily friends. And my Russian “family” were prostitutes working for criminals. People did not like us. So for this to be the home where my heart was—that just wasn’t going to be okay.
And I get that. Inside that really matches things. All through this process, “Russian-ness” has made me dizzy. The way the language makes me feel has made me dizzy. Dizziness means I’m dissociating. I’m hypnotizing myself into a state of “this isn’t real.” Because these things are not allowed. So the dizziness is a sign that this is forbidden territory.
It’s forbidden because it seemed to be the reason our lives didn’t count, that we could be abused, and I can only imagine that I felt if my inner sense of “Russian-ness” came out, I would be seen as a non-person, and my status as a person when I was in school and with friends would be lost again.